History of Our Bridge Clubs

Founders in Cleveland... Ad Infinitum

Decades of joy will abound
Through clubs of historic renown.

Often it has been said, that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us-those who have labored unselfishly, those who have loved unstintingly, those who have embraced the struggle in an unwavering, unfaltering fashion. Our predecessors are reflective of this.

For can it be?
That in retrospect, we in Cleveland see...

the Premier Duplicate Bridge Club (the Mother Club, as it is affectionately called) emerges as the pioneer of duplicate bridge in the Greater Cleveland area.

Premier actually made its debut in 1932/33 through the bold, courageous efforts of Lewis Hall. A love for this newly formed, exciting, mind-game infused a group of bridge disciples who became charter members. They were Lewis Hall, Lee Gleason, president, Ben Harding, Gasper Zuber, Eugene Cheeks, Walter Wills, Jr., Dr. I. B. Scott, John Early, George Hall, the Smith sisters, Dr. Tarter, Mr. Freeman and Mr. Bryant.

The 1936 recruitment efforts brought a true bridge legend into the fold, J. Herbert Kerr. 1937 saw Milton Smith grace the Premier horizon. In fact, a dynasty was formed between Kerr and Smith, for they soon became the pair who touted the most wins for that era.

Lewis Hall must be heralded for his admirable part in building a comprehensive, competitive bridge base in Cleveland in the thirties. He should forever be remembered as the unsung hero who gave his time and energy to fine-tune an organization that would enhance the lives, and intensify the pleasure of many for decades to come.

The Premier Club was thriving and vital for it averaged 15-20 tables each Monday night at the Cosmopolitan Club on 93rd and Cedar. It served as a viable source of social enjoyment for those who basked in this nationally organized game called bridge. In fact, the group made its mark by hosting the 1942 Summer Nationals, the tenth national in the history of the infant organization, ABA. Cleveland was truly on the forefront of a growing dynamic in the mind-game sports arena.

In those days, persons stayed in the homes of the host city bridge players. What a mammoth task for the 1942 Housing Committee! However, the love of this marvelous game made this added responsibility a joy, not a burden. The cry, no doubt, was "Let the games begin!"

There was no stopping Cleveland:

  • 1942- Smith and Kern won the Open Pair event
  • 1948- Alvin Wilkes ranked 34th in the country
  • George Wills was the first Life Master in Cleveland
  • Arthur Wills, the first Senior Life Master
  • J. Herbert Kerr, the first Ruby and Diamond recipient
  • Cal Vinson, the first Century winner

We are also proud of the fact that Cleveland had a 1930's era, Premier club survivor, well into the twenty-first century—Mrs. Virginia Adams (recently deceased). In 2008, when Cleveland hosted the spring Nationals, Mrs. Adams was honored along with Judge Lillian Burke. Cherished memories of Virginia's sensational seven No Trump bid, or a spectacular trophy-win gently caress the shadows of time for CCBC.

And-then in 1954,
Cieveland boasted even more...

Jessie McGhee organized the McGhee Duplicate Bridge Club. The first president was Theopolis Taylor; Constance Childress is the current president. The McGhee-Premier Clubs have now merged. They boast a membership of twenty-six zealous bridge players. Jessie also organized Jessie's Pips in 1955; they, however, are no longer operative.

And the beat goes on,
1972 dawns...

Judge Lillian Burke plants yet another star in Cleveland's crown-the Burke Players. Judge Burke was the number one recruiter in the ABA in 1972, as attested by the bursting rolls of her newly formed club. The first president was Lily King; Lawrence Wills holds that post in 2015. The membership roll has thirty-six fervent bridge lovers

And that's not all,
In 1975 we recall..

that Judge Burke recruited members for yet another group, the Woodmere Club. Its first president was Beatrice Frye; Lillian Hale is the present day office holder. Woodmere stakes out a claim for eleven steadfast, impassioned players.

Well well well
Cleveland has yet another tale to tell..

In the late 1990s, the Fantastics Club made its debut. It was formed by Gladys Buie (now of Atlanta) .Wardell Gooch was the first president; Gloria Avery-Hill now holds that position. This is a thriving group that has vested interest in instruction and tutored play for new players. Fourteen members enjoy the bridge experience with real gusto.

Interesting enough, there is a real sense of intra-play among the four clubs. One can often see the same persons at all four day and night games. The ebb and flow of players makes for on-going camaraderie and a healthy sense of rivalry. As well, there is a refreshing cohesiveness that tends to make the four groups seem as one.

In 1956, the Cleveland Congress of Bridge Clubs (CCBC) came into being. It is an affiliate unit of the ABA, and is the leadership umbrella for all of the clubs in Cleveland. Cleveland is part of the Great Lakes Section. Its function embraces a wide variety of services. Not only is it a liaison between ABA and the local clubs, but it is also the recognized administrative body for all bridge affairs and activities in Cleveland. CCBC was established under the direction of Jessie McGhee, Oliver Bailey and J. Herbert Kerr. George Hall was the first president.

Cleveland is proud to have spawned sons and daughters who are recipients of the esteemed Life Membership Award. This ABA Life Membership Awards Program is designed to recognize individuals who have rendered long and faithful service to the Association, often inconspicuously. Those honors were bestowed on J. Herbert Kerr, Judge Lillian Burke, Edith Morgan, and James Hunter. J. Herbert Kerr also served on the Editorial Advisory Board for the ABA History and Official Encyclopedia in 1974. The newest deservant Life Member honoree from Cleveland is Albert L. Freeman. Like each of his illustrous predecessors, his service to the local chapter has always been earmarked by his devoted steadfast devotion to ABA/CCBC.

In 2005, the Cleveland Congress of Bridge Clubs made a bold step after years of renting playing areas for game time only. They embarked on a new venture that enhanced and broadened their club activities. They leased a clubhouse that is available for the entire week; this allows clubs to have planned and/or unscheduled meetings, extra games and/or tournaments, as well as social events. It has helped to make bridge a total experience. Some may say, "Get a life", but what red-blooded bridge player wants life without bridge?

To this end, in 2012, CCBC members continued their engagement in the most entertaining and intellectually stimulating pasttime, bridge. The four clubs moved to a new site, 16400 Miles Avenue due to the owner's sale of the building that housed the CCBC clubhouse.

In 2015 and hopefully for time inmemorian, bridge will continue to enrich, enliven, and embellish the lives of its members. They will happily pursue their first love, an avocation replete with camaraderie, skillful play, friendly competitiveness, and personal growth. Truly love, fulfillment and entertainment are scripted with a capital B.

Who can imagine life without bridge says the true devotee—not CCBC? That's why the Cleveland Congress of Bridge Clubs zealously follow this pleasurable pursuit at 16400 Miles!